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Oak Tree Elementary teacher to be honored by KPNX-12 News

Gold celebrating the best of GPS!

12 News reporter Trisha Hendricks poses with Oak Tree Principal Dale Lunt, Rachel Pallesen, and Pallesen's family.

Local TV station, KPNX-12 News, recently picked one of Oak Tree Elementary’s teachers to be an “A+ Teacher of the Week.” Congratulations to Rachel Pallesen for receiving the honor! She was completely surprised by the recognition. 

“I was just working with a couple of students, and then in walks my grandson with flowers, my son, my daughter-in-law, and a camera,” she said.

Pallesen was nominated for the award by her son and daughter-in-law. She described the experience as “surreal.” The “A+ Teacher of the Week” award goes to Arizona teachers who go above and beyond. 

“I love teaching. I love kids,” she said, “I really enjoy being at the elementary level, where I can really help kids get engaged in the classroom.”

Pallesen has been working as a C.O.P.E. teacher at Oak Tree for two years. The “Children Overcoming Problems through Education” program provides a supportive, highly-structured, and therapeutic learning environment for GPS students who struggle socially and emotionally.  

“I want to send them off to junior high as close to grade-level as possible, so their problems don’t get even bigger,” she said.

For nearly three decades, Pallesen has been working as a teacher across the country in states like Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and now Arizona. She also worked abroad in Seoul, South Korea. She credits her mother, a fourth grade teacher, with inspiring her to pursue a career in education.

“She would bring work home to correct. Five kids would sit around the table, and she’d give us each a red pen. She’d list off the letters, and we’d get to check all of her students’ work. As soon as I learned that you could get paid for this job, I thought it was perfect,” Pallesan said.

While she’s only been working for Gilbert Public Schools for three years, Pallesan has enjoyed her time at the district and Oak Tree Elementary. She says Principal Lunt, the teachers, and support staff create a really encouraging environment.

“It’s been a really easy school to transition to, and I’m very glad to be here,” she said. 

To learn more about Oak Tree Elementary or the COPE program, schedule a school tour or enroll today!


Written by Kailey Latham